After the Xmas Break it was time to return to the rugby field…
With only one training session prior to the next match this was always going to be difficult on the body. Prior to Xmas the Huns had put in a couple of decent performances against the top sides in the league and not really got what the efforts deserved, this was the return fixture from earlier in the season where Daisy had been injured and we went down quite heavily in the end which wasn’t really a true reflection, but as I always say scoreboard never lies.
Travelling to St Neots on a mildish morning with a bit of nip in the wind we had a good squad of 20 with the boost of our Uni girls still being around. We warmed up well and I thought we seemed pretty focused. The backs have been a bit of a problem with changes in personnel meaning we haven’t been consistent in this area. With Aimee away, Eleanor went into Fly half and Katie playing only her second time at outside centre we had a different look to us. With Sophie and Chloe on the wings and stonewall Lisa at fullback we were ready to start.
We started brightly in the first 5 minutes carrying well and pushing St Neots back. With the forwards Abbie, Kristie, 2 Cath’s, P, Tracey, Shania and Hannah all combining pretty well to keep possession – In fact St Neots never really came out of their half and all was looking good – we were working hard but not creating much, there seemed to be a few times we would give the ball away only to regain it to lose it again. St Neots’ No 10 was everywhere, very good at being the 2nd person into any ruck and was either turning the ball over or disrupting our flow. However, I did think she can’t do this all game as she will get tired quickly.
When St Neots did try to move the ball themselves our back line was up fast, and everyone was making their tackles and smothering any opportunities, in fact St Neots when in possession either maintained field position or went backwards. Katie and Fresh were particularly to the front with this and Eleanor was starting to look really dangerous with her elusive running. From a tiny break we managed to use the forward momentum, and with excellent support and hands from forwards and backs created the overlap that Sophie needs, and without being asked twice accelerated away to score the first try; one which our possession had deserved. Trace couldn’t quite land the conversion but still 5-0 up away from home was a great start.
St Neots’ Coach was quick to instruct his girls not to get into an arm wrestle as he felt their opportunities lay out wide moving the ball quickly and using the 10 as she was a good player. We needed to disrupt that as much as we could. With a few stoppages for injuries, mainly to St Neots girls, play continued in a similar vein the only difference was that St Neots had a better field position just inside our half. Managing to get quick ball for once and with our back line not quite as up as they should have been just gave the 10 a sniff to get up some pace and with the tackle missed for the first time they were in behind us and she finished it, with the conversion making it 7-5 to St Neots kept to them right in the game.
We came back hard and whilst still losing possession a little too often we managed to defend well enough to force the error and get scrums, getting that little bit of go forward again time for Eleanor to step up jinking her way through to find an open run to the line. With St Neots scrambling back to get to her it was too late as she crashed over to score what is her first try for us which seems incredible for such a competent player and in her 3rd season. With the conversion close but no cigar we came to the last 5 minutes of the half at 7-10 The game continued in a similar vein and you could see that St Neots forwards were tiring badly, and you could sense an opportunity; they had made a few enforced changes; the 10 had been looked at a couple of times as well – in the previous game we had the same thing happen and we didn’t capitalise, would we make the same mistake again? With half-time coming we were up by 3 and with an opportunity as the wind was behind us.
By this time Capt. Daisy was back on the field and with both Cath’s needing a break, P switched to Hooker and Clare crawling out of her sick bed at 10 am to come and play went in at second row, Hazel slotted into prop and T replaced Chloe on the wing. The scrum seemed to lose a bit of its strength and the ball was not particularly clean off the back, but Charli was doing a good job at getting it out and Dais with a couple of pick and goes was making some ground. It was St Neots that struck first with the team dropping its level a bit we came under pressure and despite some sterling defence they forced themselves over in the corner and at 12-10 it was all in the balance and it looked as though we were committing the same errors as in previous. St Neots had a boost and had a little more possession and a couple of times looked to go around us only for Lisa and specifically T on two occasions making superb tackles to keep us in the game.
St Neots had lost their front row, so we were now uncontested, this galvanised us a bit and we forced them back to their own line and with excellent maintenance of the ball and good hands and support it was Hannah who next crossed the line for us to regain the lead. Hitting the post with the conversion left the score at 12-15 and a real tit for tat game. There was 15 minutes to go and we had regained our levels but to my frustration we switched off again and with St Neots scoring again to lead at 17-15 with 10 minutes to go it looked like we were letting history repeat itself. With both Coaches “asserting” themselves about effort not being quite good enough, Chloe returned for T who had gone off injured, Kristie was back on for Hazel and we had to give it one final big effort.
By this time St Neots’ 10 had left the field and we had a lot of possession. We always talk about building phases as this will create space and with a few minutes left that’s exactly what we did with St Neots defence sucked in and some lovely passing the ball is wide to Sophie who given space will out run anybody in this league of that I am sure. From just inside their half she accelerated away to score under the posts, not realising how close to the end of the game this was at 20-17 receiving the ball from the KO in the last play it was fitting that Eleanor should catch it and boot it into touch for the win that our play has deserved for a while.
What set this out was the fact we did learn from our mistakes of the past and raised ourselves as a team when it was needed. Everybody played pretty well, and a great deal of heart and soul was bared, and the coaching team were immensely proud, and it was great to see smiling faces again.
For me Eleanor was outstanding, Katie and Fresh also close to her. Abbie has been very consistent over the last few months and Kristie is returning to her best. P just gets better and better and a special mention for Chloe, who’s game is going from strength to strength.
This weekend another chance for revenge and with Dara and Aimee returning to the fold only adds to a really strong line up.